I know the gardens hold a secret to our survival…at culinary, medicinal, emotional, organization and psychological levels. If we look to nature to discover how to “operate”, I think we will have perfect and commonsensical answers. So, I began this article by searching “plants power” assuming those plants that thrive despite human eco-destructive ways might be good teachers. In this search, the results of the “images” showed ALL “power plant” pictures of the industrial world. My gosh, how far down the rabbit hole have we gone? The machine is grand!
Recently, I was invited into an apparent “good” opportunity to have increased “clinical” prestige in regards to the “work I do”. These offers always make we stop and think. What is IT I am doing? And, once again, my decision was clear…. to stay in the garden. It is not always the most “accepted” approach as “the profits” monetary are small and tiny, the “idea” is lost or hidden from many’s views and it almost appears “unreasonable” in a power and successful hungry world. But, I stayed true to my heart and belief that healing arts always and forevermore starts in the garden and should always have that connection. It should never, ever be about money. And, taking a personal stand for the true “value” and essence of healing is one way I know, deep within, we can and will survive the machines of mankind that have almost suffocated our rational minds.
This amounts too “I have an anarchist approach and my garden approves”.
My current medicine garden here in Ecuador appears like a council of varying countries. The circle is quite eclectic and represents many cultures and countries. I’ve harnessed and nurtured the creative spirits from my past living spaces and I have surrounded myself with these old friends. The garden holds the wonky northerners, the crazy singing easterners and the wild westerners who dance with the southerner’s sultry growths. The green house holds the “royal herbs” who require a little extra attention and tendering. I have taken great measures to make sure they are all happy, healthy and feel welcomed.
And, in return, the give back! The magic of alchemy is one answer to locating and harnessing a “freedom” well beyond the current concept we have of “natural” and “wholistic” medicine. Acutally, “natural” medicine is not really that “natural” anymore.
Let me explain ….just as with every plant in the garden, every tincture jar I make holds a story. Each plant, medicine jar tell stories of the dying ecosystems and places gone forever. The plants with a little help and care have very self-resistance-voices and speak out against the our concept of “natural health”. If you give it a chance and a little encouragement, the plants are our allies.
For people not lucky enough to roam throughout the wilds or have time, energy or interest in creating a productive garden you can purchase herbal preparations such as tinctures and teas that cradle the healing properties echoed at length in plant healing. But too many have lost interest in going deeper than “a purchase” for their health. Actually there are far more who “pretend” to be nature lovers…or would like to see themselves as such. I have an uncanny and empathic gift to see right through these people. Sometimes it feels more like a curse, but it is also the energy that drives me to “speak out”. Too many are concerned about their social status: see my pretty garden? Some are more concerned about the small town gossip..”.I will hang out at the social hub more often than my garden”. And, a common view is “money is the tool towards healing”. This last concept has infiltrated all our avenues and ways of living. I will tell you loudly and boldly: my time spent in the garden and in the kitchen alchemizing is worth a trillion times itself to the future of our children. I hold that with honour I will not (ever, ever) buy in to the industrial, machine way.
We all know we are in a consumerist society and have been manipulated to accept certain “ways” a “dealing” It is easy to ignore the connections between a bottle on a shelf and a living, growing plant out in the garden. It can be hard to know if that bottle contains plants that grow a mile away or on another continent. It is difficult to marry the relationship of the soil, bugs, air and water within that bottle of medicine.
For me, this is far more about educating ourselves about the plants we use to nourish and heal. If you have a bottle of medicine, you should be able to visit the plant in that container. That relationship needs to be desperately re- awoken.
In this connection, we ARE able to build a whole new system of healing that isn’t about regulations and retardations. It is one that can support our movement away from the corporate power structure that medicine has become and back to the garden where it all begins.A medicine cabinet should always be next to the garden. Anyone in the business of healing and who sees money as the primary force (maybe even the need) should take a good hard look at themselves. They are not natural beings and their integrity to true healing is misguided.
The development of a new medical system, or the recovery of ancient models, is a future link in our safety net when industrialism fails. Rest assured, it will and is failing. However, at this time, those who “get this” and choose another way will be seen as the rebels…the rebels of the future medicine. It is not an easy path as it requires you oppose the current system and in some ways, go underground for the time-being.
On the flip side, we all have access to industrial medicine and many will excuse their participation/use of this form of “fake” medicine because it offers a fast, temporary relief. However, as I see over and over, the results are a feedback loop that actually causes more problems. The real work (natural way) is not so immediate in relief..and it does mean that suffering is part of the healing process. You are forced to look at all levels of healing in that suffering. The result is it will re-establish our connection to the real medicine that is a direct line from the Earth and the Mamma who feeds us.
This goes for all so called “natural medicines” too. Herbal medicine that is popular these days is presented to us by the media, so-called green capitalists, profiteers and lawmakers. It really has brought with it very little true and deep healing. Ultimately it is a failure….and is crumbling before our eyes. The plants and herbs are reduced to capsule form or worse, to their “active ingredients”. They become just a tool to work with in the same body-machine that industrial medicine sees people as being. They become no different than pharmaceutical drugs or a scalpel blade. that messes around with the parts. They are ultimately less effective because the herbs have been taken out of the system of healing (garden) in which they have their strength.
Sometimes and sadly when the marketers of herbal products get their hands on a new “miracle cure,” it can mean extinction for the plant. This is especially sad when so many living creatures go into useless products or are wasted on conditions that they don’t treat. (eg: have you heard of Echinacea shampoo?) Many herbs I wildcrafted 20 years ago are now close to extinction in the wild. I fear this will happen to “chaga” in the near future too.
There is also the “fads” of miracle herbs and we tend to believe everything we read and hear online without looking at or researching the “qualities” of the plant. A great example is Frankincense essential oil. The healing properties and amazing compounds of Frankincense are found in the resin acids and make up the heavier resin portion of the oleo gum resins. In distillation, these resins are left behind. For this reason, it is not physically possible for there to be anything but trace amounts of Boswellic acids in the essential oil of Frankincense no matter what the company reps tell you! It is safe to say that all the literature and information that claims Boswellic acids are found in the essential oil of Frankincense are written and disseminated by essential oil companies who seek to boost their sales of Frankincense essential oils. We need to know and research our medicine like it was to be our best friend.
I believe there is an alternative to the so-called “alternative medicine.” Michael Moore, herbalist and author said it best in one of his lectures: “… the herb business mostly revolves around recently marketed substances with new research, and it comes from them to us. Whereas we’re trying to establish as much as possible (in this “lower level” if you will) the fact that we need to create a practice and a model that’s impervious to faddism. We’re trying to practice in a way that derives from practice rather than from marketing. Not from above to below but from below around….Keep it local. No centralization because centralization kills everything.”
So, indeed, we need to localize. I also feel we need to rid ourselves of the concepts of “clinical settings” and “proper” set ups. A healers home and garden is the scene for the healing. Healing is most ancient model on earth to date. We knew it before we were people. Animals know how to use plants to medicate themselves. Plants play the same game. We are far too afraid to be in wonder in the natural setting. We have full resources available at our fingertips. There are millions/trillions of books. We have people who “know” how are eager to teach, mentor and train. A herbalists garden is far more healing than an “office”.
This Ol’ n New way of healing needs to be subtle and requires a lot of self-knowledge, or at least self-awareness. It uses intuition as a diagnostic tool. It uses the senses and plants as guides. It beckons us into relationship from the garden alchemized medicine. When we take herbal medicine (or food for that matter) we are taking in part of the plant’s growing environment; everything it ate and drank and experienced has formed the medicine you’re depending on.
When we are healed by plants, we owe it to them to look out for their kind and the places where they live. Traditional plant-gatherers often have a prayer they recite before they take anything from the wild or they return gifts in a form of gratitude (tobacco being a favourite) Personally I say “OK, plant. You heal me and I’ll look out for you. I got your back because I know you got mine. No one’s gonna build over you, or log you, or pick too much while I’m around and I will ensure you have all power to grow stronger and better and bigger” So this true herbal healing system has at its heart a deep environmentalism and a commitment to the Earth. It is a conversation.
The bioregional concept is important to this model of healing. Plants’ actions in our bodies are really quite limited by the chemicals they can produce from sunlight and soil. For every big-name herb on the market cut from the rainforest or dug from the mountains, there is most likely a plant with a similar action growing in your watershed. Some of the best medicines to maintain good health grow in vacant lots and neglected gardens around the world.
I intend and I am creating a little village of people who are responsible for their own health. We gather or grow our own medicines and food and is a primary “rule” of the village purpose. These days we are far too dependent on the power structure of industrial health care – the secret society of the doctors, the white-male-dominated medical schools, the corporate decision makers with their toxic pharmaceuticals and heartless greed and labs full of tortured beings. That dependence is one more thing keeping us tied down and bound to the “state” and “system”. . With a new system of healing, based on self-knowledge and herbal wisdom, we will be that much more free.
People who have some background in herbal healing can be a great help to those of us just learning. Healers who are working to form this new model, whether collectively or through their individual practices, should keep in mind that commitment to the Earth and a decentralized form of operations are central to truly revolutionary medicine. It is hard to resist the machine…it will allure you with false promise. But, truly, money is a fake medicine.
In these times of change, everything is being examined and either destroyed, rebuilt, or created from our hearts. Industrialism has affected every aspect of our lives – we are just starting to realize how much has been lost. Medicine is just one part of the machine that we have to take back and re-create into a form that works for the society we will become. Every herb, pill, and procedure should be judged on its sustainability and accessibility to small groups of people. People really need to get back to the garden. We can start with ourselves, within our communities and circles, but should never stop expanding outwards until industrial medicine rusts in a forgotten grave, a victim of its own imbalances. It takes integrity to take a real good look at true healing.
I am honoured to have known and live with the special plants in my garden and to have studied their uses as medicine. I am honoured to have them within this new land and space. And, I see myself as one of many guardians re-developing a new system on ancient ways in a corrupt environment for future benefit. I am a garden anarchist.
You are welcome to visit my garden!